Although the Pittsburgh Penguins’ current health is poor, at least their fans get to indulge a little nostalgia this week.
The team announced Monday morning that defenseman Kris Letang, who missed Saturday’s game in Detroit with a mysterious upper-body ailment, has been placed on the injured reserve list. In his place, the Penguins have recalled former second-round draft pick Philip Samuelsson from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL.
The 22-year-old call-up is the son of one-time Penguin blueliner Ulf Samuelsson, who also skated for Hartford, Detroit, Philadephia and the New York Rangers over a 16-year NHL career defined by crushing physical play. Ulf won two Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh in the early 1990s and is currently employed as an assistant coach by the Rangers.
His son Philip doesn’t have the same rough reputation, but he has been considered one of the Penguins’ top defense prospects in a development pipeline full of them. The native of Sweden played two years at Boston College after being drafted by Pittsburgh in 2009, assisting the always-strong Eagles to a national title in 2010.
From there, Samuelsson joined the AHL Penguins for the 2011-12 season, although he also skated in five games for the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers during that year. Since then he’s settled in as a consistent positional defenseman in the pros, using his stick and 6-foot-2, 200-pound body to ably separate attackers from the puck.
His offensive numbers will likely never be above-average – Samuelsson has 26 points in 142 pro games – so he will have to limit his mistakes to stick in the NHL long-term. The Penguins also recalled winger Harry Zolnierczyk for the third time this season for insurance prior to Monday’s game against Toronto at Consol Energy Center.
As for Letang, he will certainly miss at least one more game, joining fellow top defensemen Rob Scuderi (broken ankle), Paul Martin (broken lower leg) and Brooks Orpik (concussion) on the IR. According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Rob Rossi, Scuderi has begun to skate aggressively and is expected to re-join practices this week.
Pittsburgh (23-10-1, 47 points) has four games in the next six days, including a back-to-back Wednesday and Thursday against the Rangers and Minnesota, respectively.